My name is Chazona Baum. I’m 28, and if you had asked me at 18 if I would end up heading down a full-stack web development path, I might have given you a look.
I began primarily as a writer with a fondness for foreign languages. My journey with code started out, like many my age, tinkering with HTML and some very basic CSS. Common knowledge at the time was that while anyone could pick up these languages, if you hadn’t learned a programming language by college, it was too late for you. In fact, a Computer Science degree at my college was well-known to be only possible if you already planned on majoring in CS before orientation. It was also not expected for women (or at least women-identifying folks) to succeed in such a technical field. So I continued to play around with these languages, booting into Linux every day and compiling my own programs, knowing that I would have to figure out a “real job” before long.
And work real jobs, I did. I bounced around all sorts of jobs, from a carhop at a drive-in restaurant, to a receptionist and occasional nurse in a veterinary hospital, to a licensed car insurance agent specializing in helping our military. I’ve worked retail, and I’ve held white-collar jobs, and in every workplace I’ve picked up soft skills that helped me push further and take on more responsibility. I found myself incredibly resilient through struggles, and I was drawn to peoples’ stories and perspectives, which made me skilled at finding common ground.
But as I went from job to job and began having kids, my heart always seemed to return to code. As I saw the rise of blogs, I looked longingly at books on PHP and MySQL and wondered why the expectation for women was simply to make the content or perhaps a WordPress template or two. When I went to work for a large insurance company, I asked about possible routes to their IT department. I kept getting drawn back in.
It wasn’t until my husband’s relocation wrenched me away from a job I enjoyed and left me largely responsible for our children all day that my search for a valuable skill encouraged me to go for it. It was clear that returning to college was not a likely scenario, but I found resources and for the first time a welcoming tech community through Free Code Camp. As an eternal autodidact, their method of teaching you to teach yourself resonated with me, and for once it didn’t seem quite like the young white men’s club tech had been.
While I don’t know how long it will take me to earn a respectable income from my code, my journey just keeps getting better!